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Squareheads, Blockheads and Other Epithets As Applied to German Soldiers of Earth War I

Squareheads, Blockheads and Other Epithets As Applied to German Soldiers of Earth War I

Right here are some of the generally applied epithets for German troopers during Entire world War I:

Bosche–the pejorative French phrase for German is from the French “albosche,” and “caboche” (cabbage head or blockhead). This was extremely frequently used to the German soldiers by the French. They barely realized the Globe War I or II German soldier by any other title.

William Casselman, creator of Canadian Text and Sayings has this to say concerning the expression Bosche:

“Boche is a French slang word for ‘rascal’ initially used to German soldiers during Earth War A single, and borrowed all through the early several years of that conflict into British English.
A definition is provided in Songs and Slang of the British Soldier: 1914-1918, edited by John Brophy and Eric Partridge, published in 1930. I have augmented their note.
Boche is the chosen and most typical English spelling. Bosche is a rarer English choice spelling.

The term was very first utilized in the phrase tĂȘte de boche. The French philologist Albert Dauzat considered boche to be an abbreviation of caboche, playful French slang for ‘human head,’ extremely a great deal like English comedian synonyms for head this kind of as ‘the previous noodle,’ noggin, nut, numbskull.

A single of the techniques of declaring ‘to be obstinate, to be pigheaded’ in French is avoir la caboche dure. The root of caboche in the outdated French province of Picardy is in the end the Latin term caput ‘head.’ Our English phrase cabbage has the very same origin, the compact head of leaves remaining a perfect ‘caboche.’

TĂȘte de boche was made use of as early as 1862 of obstinate persons. It is in print in a document published at Metz . In 1874 French typographers utilized it to German compositors. By 1883, states Alfred Delvau’s Dictionnaire de la langue Verte, the phrase experienced appear to have the that means of mauvais sujet and was so made use of specially by prostitutes.
The Germans, getting between the French a status for obstinacy and remaining a lousy lot, arrived to be named with a jesting variation of allemande, particularly allboche or alboche. About 1900 alboche was shortened to boche as a generic title for Germans. All through the war, propaganda posters revived the term by using the phrase sale boche ‘dirty kraut.’
At the starting of WWI boche had two meanings in continental French: (a) a German and (b) stubborn, tricky-headed, obstinate. Rapidly in the course of the system of the war, this French slang word was taken up by the English press and community.

By the time of Globe War Two, though boche was nonetheless utilized in French, it had been changed in continental French by other set-down phrases, these as ‘maudit fritz,’ ‘fridolin,’ and ‘schleu.’ These a few milder pejoratives were common through the German profession of France from 1941 to 1945.” 3

Fritz–a common German specified title.

Phrases of disparagement in English in the course of WWII used by British troops ended up ‘Jerry’ and ‘Fritz’ in the British military and navy, and ‘Hun’ in the RAF. Canadian and American troops commonly favored ‘Heinie,’ ‘Kraut’ or Fritz. 3

Heinie–almost certainly a variety of Heinz, one more typical German given identify. Heinie or Hiney is dated by Lighter to Existence in Sing Sing, a 1904 reserve and says it was in prevalent utilization through WWI to denote Germans. 1 Heinie is also defined in the dictionary as remaining slang for buttocks. 2

Hun–a throwback to the periods of the barbaric German tribes identified as the “Huns.”
The use of “Hun” in reference to German troopers is a situation of propaganda. In purchase to entirely dehumanize the enemy he have to first be imagined of as patently unique from you and yours. It was at first really difficult to get “first rate white folks” of Blighty riled up more than the “usually first rate white folks” of central Europe. The option, then, was to completely transform them philosophically into rampaging Mongol hordes from the East. 1 search at the simian features applied to German soldiers portrayed on the Allied propaganda posters drives the stage dwelling. Who would you worry and detest more–a pleasant blond-haired, blue-eyed boy from Hamburg or an apelike, rapacious brute from some distant and darkish land?”

“Huns” resulted from a remark manufactured by Kaiser Wilhelm when he dispatched a German expeditionary corps to China through the Boxer Rise up. He fundamentally informed his troops to display no mercy, declaring that 1,000 a long time in the past the Huns (an Asiatic nomad folks, not Germanic in the the very least) led by Attila, had designed this kind of a name for by themselves with their depredations that they were being nonetheless deemed synonymous with wanton destruction, and urging the German troops of 1900 in China to likewise make a identify for them selves that would previous 1,000 yrs. When the Germans were combating the French and the British a mere 14 many years afterwards, this piece of ready-created propaganda was far too good to move up for the Allied aspect, particularly in check out of the studies coming in from Belgium from the earliest times of the war.

Hun is outlined in the dictionary as getting a barbarous or damaging human being and also as getting offensive slang–utilized as a disparaging time period for a German, in particular a German soldier in Earth War I. 2

Dutch–employed by the American troopers, i.e., everyone who spoke with a guttural accent in The united states was usually recognized as a “Dutchman.”
Dutch is outlined in the dictionary as currently being a time period of or related to any of the Germanic peoples or languages. 2

Kraut–an clearly abbreviated kind of sauerkraut. Kraut, krout, crout as in use in The united states by the 1840’s to refer to Dutchmen and by American troopers throughout WWI and II to refer to Germans with its origin discovered in sauerkraut. 1 Kraut is described in the dictionary as getting offensive slang and made use of as a disparaging expression for a German. Among Individuals this is the principal regarded use of the term. 2

Squarehead or Blockhead– Most interesting of all was the appellation of “Squarehead,” or “Blockhead,” as used to the German soldiers and primarily by the American soldiers. I have usually wondered if these two appellations had any anthropological origin. There are various references in literature and by American troopers to the impact that the shape of the skulls of the German troopers appeared to be “blocked,” or “squared.” Just one doughboy states that he produced an beginner research of the shape of the skulls of German soldiers and that, to his eye, they surely were being ‘blocked,’ or ‘squared’ in configuration. I can comprehend the expression to have one’s “block knocked off,” or “I am going to knock your block off,” – “block” becoming the slang for one’s head. Seemingly there was a causual connection between these two latter expressions and “blockheads,” or “squareheads. Perhaps there was an anthropological origin for German male skulls getting a lot more ‘blocked,’ or ‘squared’ in shape. Could it be that the visual appearance of German male skulls had some partnership to the bodily positions in which they slept as infants? Let us look at some of the origins of “squarehead” and “blockhead.”

The thought has been ventured that “squarehead” and “blockhead” resulted from the shape of the German steel helmet of Earth War I. No evidence has so considerably been gathered to support this observation.

Blockhead goes again to the 1500’s and defines a stupid person, a block of wood for a head. I imagine it was in all probability mistakenly utilized to Germans simply because of its similarity to blockhead and ultimately the terms grew to become synonymous. Squarehead has been utilized to describe Germans and Scandinavians and was used as a moderate pejorative for Danes and Swedes in the American midwest. It is considered to be of Austrian origin from the late 1800’s. It does determine an ethnic bodily attribute of a squarish-formed experience exhibited by some Northern Europeans. Its genetic, not from how a single slept. The similar boxhead appeared in the early 1900’s ahead of WWI.

Squarehead is mentioned in The Slang of the American Expeditionary Forces in Europe, 1917-1919: An Historic Glossary by Jonathan Lighter, American Speech: A Quarterly of Linguistic Use, Vol. 47, Figures 1-2, Spring/Summer 1972 as in use in The united states to describe Germans and Scandinavians right before WWI. Lighter does not point out blockhead and gives no origin for that phrase.

The conventional German military services haircut appeared to produce the “square” or “block” appear. This would also be in line with the time period “jarhead” for a US Marine, once again for the reason that of this model of hair. “Squarehead,” at minimum, remained a time period in vogue in the postwar era for any individual of German origin. Of training course, just about every race and/or nationality experienced its own conditions by which it was explained, most of which would now be deemed derogatory or racist.

Of system, when one considers the phrase-origins of “Squarehead,” and “Blockhead,” the sensible dilemma occurs, ‘What about “Roundheads,” an expression that gained acceptance all through the English Civil War? Is this extra in the way of bodily anthropology or how the ’round’ cranium was formed in infancy?

Truly, the expression “Roundheads” for the Parliamentarians was a derogatory (and, it would seem, class-dependent) reference to the very shorter hair worn by the London apprentices, with whom the Royalists evidently lumped all their opponents. (The counter-insult, “Cavalier,” likened the Royalists to caballeros–i.e., the servants of Catholic authoritarian Spain.) see Martyn Bennett, The Civil Wars in Britain and Eire 1638-1651, Blackwell, 1997, pp. 104-5.

Roundheads” from the English Civil War refers to the haircuts of the a lot more Puritan associates of the Parliament forces–your primary bowl look, close-cropped and really conservative. It distinguished them from the typically elegantly-coiffed “cavaliers,” (Royalists), gentlemen of noble delivery, and typically of substantial prosperity–on the other aspect, with their lengthy and flamboyant locks.

“Roundhead” as a propaganda epithet for Parliamentarian troopers appears to originate in the simple fact that they held their hair slice brief as against the archetypal flowing locks of Royalist cavalrymen. Even though this was not normally the scenario (without a doubt there is a well-known van Dyke portrait of George, Lord Digby and William, Lord Russell, the former in the dandified ‘Cavalier’ outfit and flowing key, the other in the sombre Puritan black–the former fought for Parliament, the latter for the King) it was sufficient of a stereotype for both of those ‘Roundhead’ and ‘Cavalier’ to be utilized by propagandists as phrases of insult even though this did not quit each sets of troopers from taking the conditions to their hearts as compliment. If a person is to think all those two terrific historians Walter Carruthers Seller and Robert Julian Yeatman: The Roundheads, of system, have been so identified as because Cromwell experienced all their heads created beautifully spherical, in order that they ought to present a uniform visual appearance when drawn up in line. Other than this, if any gentleman misplaced his head in action, it could be applied as a cannon ball by the artillery (which was done at the siege of Worcester).

As to appellations, we see that the German was significantly less affectionately referred to as Huns, Boche and Jerries. American troopers had been referred to as Yanks and Doughboys, even though the British were being referred to as Brits or Tommys, and the French as Poilus.” 4


1. “The Slang of the American Expeditionary Forces in Europe, 1917-1919: An Historic Glossary,” by Jonathan Lighter, American Speech: A Quarterly of Linguistic Utilization, Vol. 47, Numbers 1-2, Spring/Summertime 1972.

2. The Free of charge Dictionary, http://www.thefreedictionary.com

3. http://www.billcasselman.com and specially his world-wide-web web site http://www.billcasselman.com/wording_space/boche.htm. Content used with the authorization of Mr. Casselman.

4. Chenoweth, H. Avery & Brooke Nihart, Semper Fi: The Definitive Illustrated History of the U. S. Marines. NY: Major Avenue, 2005, webpage 142.